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Red Sox notes: Red Sox call up Brock Holt, designate Ryan Roberts for assignment as Will Middlebrooks gets closer 04.18.14 at 5:38 pm ET
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The Red Sox designated Ryan Roberts for assignment on Friday. (AP)

The Red Sox designated Ryan Roberts for assignment on Friday. (AP)

When the Red Sox signed Ryan Roberts to help man third base in the absence of Will Middlebrooks, they sat on the cusp of a stretch where they’d face five left-handed starters in a 10-day span. Though the Sox went 4-1 in those contests, that was hardly a reflection of Roberts’ performance. The 33-year-old was just 2-for-19 with two singles and three walks, good for a .105/.227/.105 line, and with the Sox now arriving at a stage where they’ll face primarily right-handed starters, and with Middlebrooks moving closer to a return from the DL, the team elected to designate Roberts for assignment.

In his place, the team called up Brock Holt from Triple-A Pawtucket. Holt, who spent one day on the big league roster when Middlebrooks first landed on the DL, has been on a tear for the PawSox, hitting .380/.446/.600 with eight extra-base hits, five walks and three strikeouts in 56 plate appearances. The Sox immediately put Holt in Friday’s lineup.

“We felt like we needed to try to create a little bit of a jump-start to the offense. With the designation of Ryan, we got another lefthanded hitter here in Brock Holt,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “We’ve come through a stretch with seven lefthanded starters against us out of the past 10, and we’re kind of reversing that right now, going against primarily righthanders. We felt like we needed to try a different combination to attempt to spark that bottom third of the order.

“[Holt has] clearly earned the promotion here,” added Farrell. “When he was sent out, even after just one day of being here with the big-league club, he was initially disappointed, but he’s channeled that the right way and gone down and played very well on the left side of the infield.”

As for Roberts, Farrell suggested that he didn’t appear to be in sync after spending about 10 days at home following his release from the Cubs at the end of spring training. The Sox hope that the versatile Roberts will clear waivers and accept an assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket.

“We certainly want him to remain in the organization,” said Farrell. “We feel like he needs at-bats to get things going a little bit.”

As for Middlebrooks, he rejoined the Red Sox (he’d been sent home early from Chicago while struggling with the flu) and resumed baseball activities, including batting practice. Given the relatively limited time of his absence with the flu, the Sox are hopeful that Middlebrooks — who is eligible to come off the D.L. on Monday, but won’t be ready to do so at that point — will be ready to start a minor league rehab assignment in relatively short order.

“I don’t think [the flu] is going to delay Will in his eventual rehab assignment, which we’re still hopefully targeting sometime the middle of next week,” said Farrell.

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

Shane Victorino remains on track to start his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday, followed by games on Monday and Tuesday, at which point he’ll be re-evaluated for potential activation from the disabled list.

Koji Uehara came through his return to the mound on Thursday (a scoreless ninth for the save against the White Sox), and Farrell said he’ll be available again on Friday.

– Farrell said that the fact that David Ross has caught all but one of Jon Lester‘s starts was a mere coincidence, a reflection of the fact that the Sox have faced left-handed starters on the day when Lester takes the hill. In the three games when Ross and Lester have been paired, the first was a day game after a night game against the Brewers, the second featured left-hander CC Sabathia on the mound for the Yankees and the third had Chris Sale on the mound for the White Sox.

“I wouldn’t look too deep into Lester and Ross hooking up all the time. It’s just been lefthanded starters the last two, three times out that they have connected,” said Farrell. “Going forward, we’ll look at the best matchup for who’s behind the plate.”

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Kevin Millar on M&M: ‘In the big leagues right now, there’s not one team clicking’ at 1:07 pm ET
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Kevin Millar

Kevin Millar

MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Friday to talk about the Red Sox‘ slow start to the season. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Coming off their 2013 World Series title, the Red Sox are 7-9 after taking the final two games of a three-game set with the White Sox.

“It’€™s a whole different year, and there’s going to be a whole different identity,” Millar said. “You have a great nucleus of guys … but at some point the identity is going to have to figure out what are we as a group? Are we a power-hitting team? Are we a run-scoring [team]? Base-stealing? And right now, it’€™s just a little bit slow going for the Sox and deservedly so — we’re in the first two weeks of the season.”

The Red Sox have struggled at the plate and are ranked 23rd in the league with a .232 batting average.

“Early on everything’s a little bit magnified,” Millar said. “You’re trying to get your swing. You’re trying to get your numbers. You’re trying to get that scoreboard to not look at a .150, .200 average. You understand the team’s good right? The one thing I see is just figuring out who’s going to lead off consistently.

“The main thing is that [Dustin] Pedroia – the X-rays are negative, he got a cortisone shot in the wrist — that would have been a huge loss. [Mike] Napoli had the finger thing. So there’s a little nagging, a little injuries that they’€™re going to go through. They’re not clicking on all cylinders yet, but in the big leagues right now, there’s not one team clicking.”

Along with their struggles at the plate, the Red Sox also are dealing with the distraction of Jon Lester‘€™s contract negotiations. A report Saturday indicated that the team offered Lester a four-year, $70 million deal.

“Let’s not fool anybody — it’s a negotiation,” Millar said. “It’s big money we’€™re talking about. You’re talking about Lester and the one time he gets a chance to go out there and pop financially. At the end of the day, it’s a time to set up your family, and Lester loves Boston — loves playing there. I know this guy has been a bona fide big horse for this team for many years. He’s pitched many big games. This is a great pedigree.

“You’ve just got to understand, you allow this guy to leave, you better have a replacement. … That market we all know is a little bit tougher to play in if you don’t have the makeup to deal with the media, to deal with the down times when your feelings are hurt. We’ve seen that happen over the years, but I think Jon Lester – at some point they’ll get closer, they’re just a little off right now, but it’s the business side from the Red Sox front office.

“There’s no doubt in my mind he’s been everything that they’ve wanted him since he’s been in this organization, and he’d be a tough one to let go.”

For more team news, visit weei.com/redsox.

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Closing Time: Jon Lester’s excellence doesn’t go to waste thanks to Red Sox’ 9th-inning rally 04.17.14 at 11:04 pm ET
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The Red Sox once again didn’t come away with a bunch of hits Thursday night, but David Ross made sure the one he claimed counted.

With one out in the ninth, Ross ripped a double to right field, scoring Mike Napoli and paving the way for a 3-1 win over the White Sox.

The Red Sox had entered the ninth with just one hit before Napoli delivered an infield single against Ronald Belisario. Mike Carp followed with a pinch-hit single, with the Red Sox catcher then coming through with the go-ahead RBI.

After an intentional walk to Daniel Nava, Jonathan Herrera greeted Scott Downs with a perfectly executed bunt single, handing the visitors an insurance run.

Both Red Sox starter Jon Lester and his White Sox counterpart, Chris Sale, saw no-hitters broken up with one out in their respective half of the sixth inning. For Lester, the Tyler Flowers single — just out of the reach of shortstop Xander Bogaerts — ended a perfect game.

In the visitors half of the sixth, Bogaerts broke up Sale’s no-hit bid, rocketing a solo home run over the left-field wall. The homer was the first surrendered by the lefty this season, and the rookie’s first of his 2014 campaign. Prior to giving up the long ball on his 95th pitch, Sale had struck out nine batters through 5 1/3 innings.

The Red Sox’ lead was short-lived, however. Leury Garcia followed Flowers with a ground-rule double over the head of Nava. Adam Eaton proceeded to knot things up with an infield hit, beating Lester to the bag on a grounder to Napoli.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox’ win.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– The Red Sox cut down the potential go-ahead run in the seventh inning thanks to a stellar relay from Nava to second baseman Dustin Pedroia to Ross. The play came as a result of an Alejandro De Aza liner into the right field corner, with Adam Dunn coming all the way around from first base. Dunn would be tagged out by Ross on a close play at the plate, ending the seventh.

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Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy on D&C: ‘We all need a little bit of patience’ as team struggles through April at 9:44 am ET
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Sam Kennedy

Sam Kennedy

Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning and said owner John Henry called manager John Farrell on Wednesday to offer his support during the team’s early season struggles. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Red Sox, bringing up the rear in the American League East, improved to 6-9 with Wednesday’s 6-4, 14-inning victory over the White Sox.

“I think repeating [as champions] is probably one of the hardest things to do in professional sports, and we are off to an awful start. While there have been some positives, it’s been really bad,” Kennedy said. “April, you really like to get off to a good start, so it’s been disappointing. People say, ‘Is there a hangover, is there a letdown?’ Whatever it is, you can really point to the basics. We’re not hitting. I think we’re hitting about a buck-fifty with runners in scoring position. We were 1-4 going into last night’s game in one-run games. That’s not going to last. [Dustin] Pedroia, [Will] Middlebrooks, now [Mike] Napoli, [Shane] Victorino missing time, Koji [Uehara]. It’s a lot of factors to point to. I think we need to have some perspective.

“I know for a fact that John Henry reached out to John Farrell and Ben Cherington yesterday just to say, ‘Hey, guys, it’s early, hang in there, things are going to be OK.’ Because you could tell how frustrated those guys are. And we all are. But we do have to have a little bit of perspective. This is our 13th year here together in Boston. Things will get better. Guys will start to hit. Again, the pitching’s been there. So, we all need a little bit of patience. And I know that’s hard for most of us.”

The other big Red Sox news over the last week relates to the negotiations for a new contract with left-hander Jon Lester. A recent report indicated the Red Sox made a lowball offer of about $70 million for four years.

“You have to remember, we’re starting from a place where the Red Sox, from John Henry on down to Jon Lester, want to make a deal. That’s the starting place. I think everybody feels good about that,” Kennedy said. “The problem with negotiations and details from baseball negotiations getting into the public domain when you have a leak like we did this past week related to this deal is one data point gets into the media, gets out there, gets dissected. I can tell you there are lots of other data points related to this negotiation that are not in the public spotlight, in the media. All I’ll say is that Ben Cherington, Jon Lester, Larry Lucchino, our ownership group will continue to work on this. And it’s clearly best when baseball discussions are kept private, and then baseball decisions are made public. That’s been our philosophy.

“Do we want to see Jon Lester in a Red Sox uniform for a long, long time? Absolutely, yes. As a fan, I hope that he is with us for a long, long time. We’ll see where things go over the coming weeks and months. But I’m hopeful that we do end up getting something done there.”

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Thursday’s Red Sox-White Sox matchups: Jon Lester vs. Chris Sale at 8:40 am ET
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The Red Sox will end their three-game road trip in Chicago on Thursday night when they send southpaw Jon Lester to the mound against White Sox lefty Chris Sale.

While the Red Sox are struggling, Lester is off to a good start. The 30-year-old has a 2.57 ERA and a 1.095 WHIP in three starts. In his first two starts, Lester gave up two earned runs in both games while the Red Sox offense mustered up one total run.

Lester’€™s only win came on April 11, a 4-2 victory over the Yankees. That day he went 6 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on six hits and a home run while walking two and striking out seven.

“I don’€™t feel like I threw the ball as well as the first two [games], but sometimes you need games like this to make you appreciate the ones where you glide through it,” Lester said after that game. “I’ll take a win any way I can. This was just a little bit of a grinder.”

Lester has appeared in and started 10 games against the White Sox, going 4-5. His first start against Chicago came in 2006, where he recorded a win after pitching six innings and giving up two runs.

Since then, his results have been mixed against the White Sox. In 2009, Lester had a 1.98 ERA and a 0.878 WHIP in two starts, striking out 14 batters in 13 2/3 innings. 2010 was a lot tougher for the lefty as he lasted only four innings, giving up eight runs and walking five in his only start against the team. His most recent game was in 2013, when he went six innings and gave up six runs (five earned) and picked up the loss.

Sale has been lights out for the White Sox, owning a perfect 3-0 record in his first three starts with a 2.66 ERA and a 0.934 WHIP. The 25-year-old has yet to give up a home run and has walked four and struck out 19. He only last five innings in his last start, a 9-6 victory over Cleveland on April 11, giving up three runs on six hits while striking out five and walking two.

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Buster Olney on M&M: Dustin Pedroia’s wrist injury ‘a concern’ 04.16.14 at 1:17 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN’s Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni to talk about the Red Sox‘ slow start and other MLB news. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

The Red Sox are 5-9 after dropping three straight games, including Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the White Sox in frigid Chicago. Coming off last year’s World Series title, the Red Sox have been hurt by injuries and their inability to make key plays.

“I think it’s a combination of both,” Olney said. “When you start with [Dustin] Pedroia‘s situation, you go from there. That’s obviously a concern. I talked to David Ortiz over the weekend and he talked about the effort to get his timing back. The offense, which was so dominant last year, just hasn’t gotten on a roll yet, obviously. One of the Red Sox players mentioned to me over the weekend, ‘We’re still trying to find our identity.’

“The good thing is that the rest of the division is pretty much in the exact same boat. So if you’re in the Red Sox clubhouse, you might not necessarily be feeling great about what’s happening now. But you look at the Yankees, their infield situation is a complete mess. Tampa Bay’s rotation is in tatters. The Orioles have rotation issues. Toronto, as you know, a lot of questions about their rotation. Given the range of problems you might have, at least if you’re the Red Sox, you’re probably feeling better overall about your situation than some of the other teams are.”

The Red Sox have lost their last two games by one run (3-2 to the Yankees and 2-1 to Chicago), putting a spotlight on their offensive woes.

“Going into their game on Sunday night, their offense, which outscored every other team in baseball last year by 57 runs, ranked 17th in runs scored,” Olney said. “That, day in and day out, gives them so much margin for error. It did last year. They have to get that going.”

Even if Pedroia does not miss any more time with his wrist injury, it could be a serious blow to the Red Sox’ hopes if he has to play through a problem.

“I’m going to be really curious to see how he does going forward. I’ve talked to so many players through the years — how troublesome wrist injuries can be for a hitter. And sometimes they just don’t go away during the year. Because what it really needs in a lot of cases is out-and-out, flat-out rest. And he’s not going to have an opportunity to do that.”

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Closing Time: Jonny Gomes, Grady Sizemore makes sure Jon Lester finally gets support as Red Sox win 04.11.14 at 10:08 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Grady Sizemore and Jonny Gomes were going to make sure Jon Lester was finally going to get some runs to work with. And once they did, the Red Sox lefty took advantage.

Gomes and Sizemore both homered in the Sox’ pivotal four-run sixth inning against Yankees starter CC Sabathia, handing the visitors enough offense to claim a 4-2 win over New York, at Yankee Stadium.

(Lester had entered the game having gotten just one run of support in his first two starts.)

“I felt all right,” Lester said. “I had some grinds in there throughout the game. That’s the Yankees. They’re going to grind away at you and make you throw a bunch of pitches. Overall, none of that really matters. We won the game, at the end, that’s all that matters.”

While Gomes’ solo homer and Sizemore’s three-run job highlighted the offense for the Red Sox, perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the night for John Farrell‘s team was the continued excellence of Lester. The starter went 6 2/3 innings, allowing six hits, two runs, and two walks while striking out six. Lester finished his outing throwing 113 pitches.

Sabathia continued his struggles against the Red Sox, having come in the night totaling a 4-6 mark and 6.48 ERA against the Sox since the beginning of 2011. (The Yankees‘ record in those 12 starts was 4-8.) The lefty went seven innings, allowing four runs on six hits, striking out nine and walking two.

“CC is such a competitor and bulldog out there,” Gomes said. “Once he gets the lead you have to do what you can to jump him. So coming out in the sixth he’s going to be pounding the strike zone so I want to try and be aggressive in the count. We did a great job. You really have to congratulate Jon Lester, keeping us off our feet on defense. We couldn’t get much going early on and he kept running out there with those quick inning. He pitched his heart out tonight and I’m glad we were able to give him some runs.”

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox’ win:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- Gomes’ homer — clearing the left field fence — was his first of the season. The outfielder finished with two hits, marking his first multi-hit game of the season.

- Sizemore also came away with a pair of hits, including the blast over the right field fence with David Ortiz and Mike Napoli having gotten aboard via singles. The Sox left fielder also is now 4-for-10 against left-handers this season.

- Junichi Tazawa came on and ended the Yankees‘ threat in the seventh inning, getting Derek Jeter to fly out to right on the reliever’s second pitch of the night. Tazawa came on for Lester with runners on first and second with the Sox leading by a pair. The righty finished his night allowing just one hit over 1 1/3 innings.

- Edward Mujica came on for the ninth to pick up his first save as a member of the Red Sox.

WHAT WENT WRONG 

- Dustin Pedroia went hitless in back-to-back games for the first time this season, going 0-for-4 to lower his batting average to .240. Pedroia still hasn’t walked this season.

- Lester could have escaped his outing having surrendered just one run (an Alfonso Soriano homer) if home plate umpire Brian Hays had given the lefty a two-strike cutter against Brian Roberts in the seventh. But Roberts would ultimately walk (to Lester’s dismay), leading to a Kelly Johnson RBI single.

- Koji Uehara was sidelined after experiencing shoulder stiffness. (See details by clicking here.)

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